Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Backups for our Backups - REAL Preparedness

This afternoon, as I spoke with my friend, Lady Anne of Providence Lodge, she told me that their generator had up and died (Lady Anne and her Husband, along with many children live off-the-grid also).  I sympathized with her as only a fellow off-grid homesteader can, encouraging her in her distress.

I began telling Lady Anne of the frequent comments I receive - well meaning people telling me how they would set things up if they were off-grid.  They tell me how to install back-up systems and how to properly maintain our equipment.  They give me instruction on which inverters I should be using and why wind power is superior to our solar system.  Often I am reprimanded for taking "short-cuts" or not "not being very prepared, for being a prepper"!  And by and large, these comments have come from people who haven't lived off-grid.  Ever.

We exchanged stories - stories of shattered solar panels, broken generators and bursting batteries.  We talked about the axioms we live by - "if it's yellow, let it mellow - if it's brown, flush it down".  We talked of reading by lamplight when the batteries were too low to run LED lightbulbs and turning the refrigerator off during the night to conserve electricity.  We talked about the often harsh realities of real off-grid living versus the romantic off-grid dreams of many.

Truthfully, Lady Anne and I would both love to have backup systems.  Actually, we'd love to backups for our backups!  But, the reality is that both of our families have chosen for she and I to stay home and raise our children rather than hold outside jobs, meaning we each only have one income.  We have chosen to not go into debt, which means everything we buy has to come out-of-pocket.   We have chosen to run our own utility company, which means we provide our own water, sewer, power and garbage services.  And, unlike every other utility or municipality, we pay for our own capital improvements and absorb our own costs of doing business.  We have no taxing authority and can't lobby for a rate increase.  We've had to learn to make do or go without.  And that, in a nutshell, is REAL preparedness.

A long time ago, Sir Knight and I dreamt of going off-the-grid.  We read magazines and newspaper articles.  We perused off-grid catalogs and built the systems of our dreams - in our heads.  We would read Backwoods Homes articles and American Survival Guide, and shake our heads at the solar systems cobbled together on a wish and a promise.  We would discuss how we would do things, how our systems would never fail.  We would build our system right the first time, maintain it meticulously and sit back and reap the benefits of autonomous freedom!  And then, we went off-the-grid and ran headlong into reality.

Reality is much different than intellectual construct.  Intellectually, I know we need a backup to our solar system, our water system our heating system and every other system that makes our lives easier.  The reality is that all of those systems costs money, require time and demand maintenance.  In a perfect world we would have ample ability to meet those needs, however, we don't live in a perfect world.  And therein lies the rub.  No matter how many backups you have, no matter how "prepared" you are, no matter how much money, time or maintenance you put into your systems, at one point or another, they will fail.  And that is where REAL preparedness come in.....

Real preparedness is being prepared to go without.  It is about thinking outside the box and learning to work your way around a situation instead being stymied in the middle of it.  Real preparedness means figuring out how to do your laundry when your generator goes down and your James Washer handle breaks.  Real preparedness means figuring out how to turn your 24 volt battery into a 22 bolt battery when you lose a cell.  Real preparedness means figuring your way out of difficult situations rather than buying your way out of difficult situations.  REAL preparedness comes into play when you run out of other options - it has more to do with attitude and aptitude than with perfectly streamlined preparedness systems.

Off-grid living is an amazing adventure.  I love the thought of a perfect system in a perfect world but that is not our reality.  We live in an imperfect world with limited money, time and knowledge.  Sir Knight and I make the best decisions with the information and resources we have at the time.  However, because we don't have unlimited resources, we've had to build the skills needed for real preparedness.  We have learned how to think outside the box, to make do and to work around faulty systems.  We have been blessed with NOT having enough to do everything "right".  Instead, we've had to exercise our REAL preparedness muscles.  We have prepared to figure it out or do without!


  1. Ah, yes ... reality. It hits us all at one time or another, be it your off grid situation or something else, as would be the case with us seeing how we were not off grid. It would be nice, but it isn't the case at this time. Dealing with things as they come and maintaining one's sanity is key. Haha. You do quite well and always amaze me. I love reading about how you resolve what comes your way. My father-in-law would tell my husband, a Missourian, he had earned his 'Oazark Engineering Degree', making do with what you have on hand. He's quite good at it. Once when we were at a big box store he was looking for something, which he couldn't find, an employee asked if he needed help. Hubby politely declined saying he was 'McGyvering'. Like Sir Knight, he's very good at coming up with solutions to problems. It's a challenge. ;o)

    It's good to have you back. You were greatly missed. I miss the Lady Anne at Providence Lodge blog as well. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Apparently the folks making the comments have not read your article or post titled something like "email by lamplight". They do not realize that a wind turbine is like a trickle charger (and only when the wind is blowing)and that they do not perform well after wind storms and then a lightning strike. (The inverter may not work then either!) You and your husband, along and your children are much more prepared for anything the world may throw at them (without technology) than those commenting. Keep up the work - "it builds character" - ! Also - your Irish Soda bread recipe is great; and "in season" this week! Thank you! Natokadn

    Our power went out(again)yesterday - for about an hour or so. We started the generator (to keep things from freezing).

  3. Ignore them. Ignorance is their bliss. :-)

  4. I grew up amongst 'Yankee ingenuity' but now I've learned it is not unique to New England. I moved to the South and now think of ingenuity when I hear the term 'Rednecks'. And here in the PNW I found Enola and team. If I had to choose one common denominator it would be rural living. Like the song says, 'A country boy will survive'.
    Montana Guy

  5. I enjoy your blog for the very fact that you write about real life. Thank-you.
    SJ in Vancouver BC